Klamath water worth more in river

Klamath water worth more in river


Recreation is worth a whole lot more than agriculture in the Klamath Basin, but the U.S. Department of Interior may not want you to know that.

A U.S. Geological Survey study, suppressed by the Interior Department throughout October, asserts that while farming in the basin generates $100 million annually, recreation brings in almost eight times that much. The report also examines a proposed $5 billion restoration effort that would retire farmland and reduce diversions from the Trinity River, the major tributary to the Klamath. The restoration effort could spawn a recreational fishery worth $41 billion, according to the Geological Survey.

Watchdog groups believe the Interior Department held back the report because it contradicts the Bureau of Reclamation's decision last summer to supply water to farms, rather than leave it in the river for fish. The Bureau supplies Klamath River water to 1,400 farms and has been blamed for killing more than 30,000 salmon and steelhead trout in September (HCN, 10/14/02: Dead fish clog the low-flowing Klamath).

Environmentalists, tribes and fishermen on the lower river say the study shows that the water debate on the Klamath is about economic livelihood, not just the endangered fish. "(The report) shows to the public this is not a Ôfarmers vs. fish' issue," says Steve Pedery of Oregon WaterWatch; "it's farmers vs. other people."

Geological Survey officials deny that politics stifled the report's release, and say the study is still under review.

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